Jarryd and JT resume rivalry
Assuming Strepsils aren't on the banned list Saturday night's showdown in Queensland's far north is more than a meeting of two teams with finals aspirations hinging on what happens over 80 minutes but the reunion of two of our game's most precious resources.
With Jarryd Hayne soaring back into the NRL and reassuming his place as a top-class fullback last weekend only Johnathan Thurston's sore throat can get in the way of a tactical game of cat and mouse that could very well shape the make-up of the Telstra Premiership top eight.
They play in positions that while different are becoming more and more alike with each season that passes and will come together in a variety of different ways in front of more than 20,000 fans at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Thurston will take his shots courtesy of deft kicks into an in-goal that Hayne will be patrolling like a lion waiting for an unwitting victim to enter its space while Hayne's ammunition will come by trying to punch a hole through Thurston and the Cowboys' defensive line with his 189-centimetre, 100-kilogram frame.
Unable to be split for the 2014 Dally M Medal, very little separates the pair in head-to-head combat they have engaged in over the past decade.
In 10 games against each other in the NRL the honours are shared with five wins apiece, Hayne scoring eight tries in those games, but in 20 State of Origin clashes it is Thurston who enjoys a 12-8 winning advantage.
As Hayne looked abroad for sporting immortality through his San Francisco sojourn Thurston went about compiling a season that is perhaps the most complete ever achieved by someone in the game.
A premiership, Origin Series win, record fourth Dally M Medal by a record margin and a record third Golden Boot award.
It hasn't gone unnoticed by the man who stood alongside him as an equal two years ago.
"I was looking at a couple of his stats today and he could go down as the best ever," Hayne said.
"He's had a great career and achieved so much and for me it's been a pleasure to play alongside him.
"I've seen how hard he works and what he has to do to get his body right.
"The biggest thing that stands out is that he's a great competitor. Off the field, table tennis, whatever it is, he competes and everyone loves that about him. I love that about him and he's a great guy."
But Jarryd and JT haven't always been sworn enemies. They have played nine Tests together for the Kangaroos and never been defeated, the pair using rare downtime in camp to test the limits of their brilliance.
"I love competing and after sessions and that we'd always kick goals from certain areas and really test ourselves with trick shots and just having fun," Hayne revealed ahead of his first game in Townsville since Round 8, 2014.
"He's a great competitor and someone who has definitely done a lot for the game."
Against his old club Canterbury last week Thurston instituted death by a thousand line drop-outs as time after time he gently nudged the Steeden into what Hayne may now refer to as 'the end zone'.
On five occasions the Bulldogs were forced to defuse the rolling threat expertly placed beyond the front-line by Thurston, a task that now awaits Hayne five games into his NRL return.
"That's probably one of the hardest tasks as a fullback," Hayne said of the Thurston threat.
"Whenever I've played 'JT' it's his kicking game and then you've got Lachlan Coote as well that has a great left foot.
"Those two really mix it up well. They've got a really good balance and JT's attack on the line with repeat sets is probably the best in the game.
"He gets a lot of success out of it because you could think that he's going one way and then all of a sudden he pops up on the other side and catches the other edge off guard or just finds space.
"It's obviously hard to defend and we've got a big task ahead."